His Dark Materials Episode Eight, Betrayal Review: Worst. Parents. Ever.

4 stars
Before coming into the final episode of the first season of His Dark Materials, “Betrayal”, I read a YouTube comment that went something along the lines of “poor Roger.”
After reading this, it was pretty apparent that my suspicions from the cliffhanger of the previous episode, that Asriel wanted Roger for a very dark reason, would turn out to be true.
And, all I can think after watching the Jamie Childs directed finale, “Betrayal”, is that Lyra has the worst parents ever.
Seriously, I have no idea why I thought Asriel would turn out to be a good person when he is in love with Coulter; you know, the woman willing to sacrifice children to get what she wants.
It only makes sense that Asriel has the same ruthlessness to achieve his goal, which turns out to be the case when he murders Roger in order to open a bridge to the multiverse.
James McAvoy does a fantastic job as Asriel in this scene as he tries to justify his actions to Roger while he is about to murder him.

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Roger says that Asriel looked at him like a hungry wolf and that was definitely the case.

Both he and Coulter are fascinating in their ruthlessness and hypocrisy, willing to kill many children to achieve their goals while remaining adamant that nothing must happen to Lyra.
It is this hypocrisy that leads Coulter to refuse to follow Asriel into the multiverse because she wants to find their daughter.
This makes it ironic that Lyra follows Asriel into the multiverse immediately afterwards to stop him, separating her again from Coulter.
Honestly, Asriel leaving Lyra at Jordan College was the only good thing he ever did for her.
As well as the fascinating aspects of Asriel and Coulter’s characters, another interesting feature is the explanation of why the Magisterium fears Dust, believing it to be the cause of human sin.
Asriel wants to escape from the grip of the Magisterium, which is why he sacrifices Roger so cruelly.
Before this, we did get more scenes of Roger and Lyra bonding to make his death all the more tragic because we can see how good of a friend he was.
The scene of Roger’s demise is expertly handled with the acting from both Dafne Keen and Llewin Loyd, and the sound design, giving it an extra emotional punch.

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The tragedy of Roger’s death is sold by the great shots and editing as well.

As for Will, his role is almost as important with his entry into Lyra’s dimension being built up right up until the two enter the bridges at the end of the episode.
This was a nice case of editing for the end of “Betrayal” and opens up some interesting directions for the second season to go with both characters exploring the other’s universes.
The two are definitely linked.

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Both Lyra and Will entering the multiverse at the end of the episode sets up their journeys in season two.

Now, for the issues I had with the episode, which is mainly down to a few things that did not make much sense, like when the armoured bears showed up out of nowhere to help Lyra and Iorek.
I’m pretty sure they did not come with them in the previous episode so when did they get there?
Also, Roger definitely distrusts Asriel so it does not make sense for him to follow the man so willingly.
Then there is the lack of Lee and Serafina because it felt like they were set up to return and help Lyra this episode but they were nowhere in sight.
Overall, though, “Betrayal” is a fitting finale for the season that ends a lot of character arcs in a satisfying, yet tragic, way.
I am certainly looking forward to the second season.

 

 

His Dark Materials Episode Seven Review, The Fight to the Death… That We Don’t See The End Of.

3 and a half stars
I was looking forward to the seventh episode of His Dark Materials, “The Fight to the Death” because it would adapt a scene I have fond memories of watching as a kid, the fight between Iorek Byrnison and Iofur Raknison.
This was a moment I really enjoyed when watching in The Golden Compass, the first adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.
However, I felt that this scene left quite a bit to be desired this time around.
Sure, the CGI is fantastic as always but, compared to the weight and magnitude of the fight in the first adaptation I just was not feeling it.
This may be because the final part of the fight is off screen as opposed to the raw end of it from the movie.

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The Iorek vs Iofur fight was a disappointment compared to the movie, and even the books where I hear it is much more gruesome.

Unfortunately, this is not the only area where the episode falters.
Directed by Jamie Childs, “The Fight to the Death” has quite a few other issues, starting with the beginning when Lyra awakens after falling out of Lee’s airship at the end of the fantastic “The Daemon Cages” episode.
There is absolutely no explanation for how she, or any of the other characters who are revealed to have also fallen out of the airship, survived the fall.
They should at least have some broken bones but they are walking around like nothing happened.
It makes no sense.
Speaking of things that make no sense, did anyone else find it a bit forced how Mrs Coulter just manipulated Father MacPhail to let her tag along to kill Asriel?
He was the person most against bringing her but then he just suddenly decides to allow her to come after a quick talking to?
On the plus side, though, we did get another good look at the crazy side of Mrs Coulter at the beginning of the episode when she almost strangles the assistant from the previous episode who was revealed to have had her daemon removed.

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Crazy Mrs Coulter is best Mrs Coulter.

And, even if I did not buy Coulter manipulating Father MacPhail, I did buy Lyra manipulating Iofur.
In fact, I would say this is an improvement on the Golden Compass movie.
In that film, Lyra uses the alethiometer right in front of Iofur to find out that he killed his father.
But, given that Iofur works with the Magisterium, he should know what an alethiometer is so he should have realised this was a trick.
In this episode, however, the scene is changed because Lyra uses the alethiometer out of Iofur’s view, making her manipulation of him much more believable.
This manipulation earns her the name Lyra Silver Tongue when Iorek wins.
Along with Lyra’s growth, we also get plenty from Will this episode as he accidentally kills one of Boreal’s men in self defense when they breaks into his house.
I do feel that the way this scene was shot is a little off but I am still interested to see where this takes Will because he could potentially learn the truth about the alternate universe when he reads his father’s letters, which he retrieved.
Then there is Lee Scoresby, who is as likeable as ever, as he teams up with Serafina Pekkala to go and help Lyra.
And it looks like she and Roger will need all the help they can get because there is a new threat from an unexpected source… Lyra’s own father Asriel.

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Asriel just got a whole lot creepier after this episode.

As soon as Lyra shows up to rescue him he panics, shouting he did not send for her.
But then, when he sees Roger, his demeanor completely changes, with him being happy to see him.
Whatever Asriel is planning, he clearly needs a child for it to work and this does not look good for Roger.
I guess it makes sense now why Coulter and Asriel got together because they both appear to be willing to sacrifice innocent children to achieve their goals.
This finished off the episode with an intense cliffhanger to lead into the finale.
I just hope it can pick up in quality from this one.
Although far from bad, I found “The Fight to the Death” to be disappointing in terms of how certain scenes were adapted and how some things did not make sense.
Still, it was an enjoyable episode, nonetheless.

His Dark Materials, Episode One, Lyra’s Jordan Review: Enter the World of Daemons.

4 stars
HBO has put out many amazing shows in 2019 from Chernobyl, to Watchmen, to the final season of Game of Thro-oh wait, no, that last one sucked.
Anyways, while HBO did not make its latest show, merely distributed it, that show, His Dark Materials, looks to be another great one nevertheless.
Based off Philip Pullman’s successful trilogy, the story is set in a world where people’s souls manifest as talking animal companions known as daemons.
If this sounds familiar to you but you have not read Pullman’s novel then you probably recognize it from the earlier movie adaptation, The Golden Compass, which got a less than stellar reception to say the least.

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Will the new His Dark Materials series go on to be as badly received as The Golden Compass or will it be better?

I have only seen this film once when I was a kid and I thought it was pretty good, although, to be fair, I was only nine and I could not tell the difference between a good and bad move to save my life back then.
In any case, even if The Golden Compass really is as bad as I don’t remember it being, His Dark Materials already looks to be miles better than that film adaption, if the first episode “Lyra’s Jordan” is anything to go by.
Directed by Tom Hooper, and written by Jack Thorne just like every other episode will be, the episode mostly follows the titular Lyra at the beginning of her adventure.
Lyra is played by Dafne Keen who I am glad to see is getting more work.
I loved her performance in Logan and I cannot wait to see what she does with the role of Lyra.

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Dafne Keen does a solid job in the first episode of His Dark Materials.

Speaking of the X-Men, James McAvoy is also in the series, playing Lyra’s guardian Lord Asriel.
McAvoy delivers a fantastic performance, especially in an impassioned speech he delivers to his colleagues about Dust to get more funding for his research, which is considered heresy by many.
It is with this and many other moments in the episode that the anti-religious themes of Pullman’s story can be seen.
Along with Keen and McAvoy, another actor to watch out for in this show is Ruth Wilson who plays the sinister Marisa Coulter.
Another thing I enjoyed about “Lyra’s Jordan” is how the daemons are shown to be incorporated into the world.
We get a Gyptian ceremony in the episode, which shows how they celebrate when a daemon settles as a single animal.
Many of the daemons are established from Lyra’s Pan (Kit Connor) and Asriel’s Stelmaria (Helen McCroy).
Then there is the fact that all of these daemons have great CGI.
The downside of this is that they did not have the budget to animate many side characters’ daemons, which are just never acknowledged, but this is better than having a bunch of completely fake looking daemons running around.

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The Daemons are very well animated, blending seamlessly with the actors as can be seen by this shot of Lyra and Pan.

And, as stated, the daemons that are in the episode are incorporated so well that it makes the world feel lived in by them.
However, this has a negative effect on the characters as a Gyptian child is kidnapped after the celebration of his brother’s daemon.
Many Gyptian children are revealed to have been kidnapped by the end of the episode
by the so called Gobblers.
Even children who aren’t Gyptians like Lyra’s friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd) are taken and this is one of the reasons why Lyra departs with Coulter at the end of the episode, with her alethiometer in hand.
Overall, the first episode of His Dark Materials, “Lyra’s Jordan” is a solid start that has me interested to see where the series will go.
Hopefully, this will be liked by fans of Pullman’s novel and not go on to be regarded as another The Golden Compass.

It Chapter 2 Review: Highly Flawed but a lot of Fun.

3 and a half stars
When I started my blog two years ago, the first review I ever did was Andy Muschietti’s 2017 adaption of Stephen King’s It.
With Stephen King being one of my favourite authors, and It being one of my favourite novels, I was highly anticipating that first film.
I ended up loving It, giving the film a four and half star rating out of five.

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I loved the first It film as a fan of Stephen King’s novel.

So, I was naturally, highly anticipating the sequel, It: Chapter 2, which I just saw this morning.
And what did I think of it?
Well, my feelings are mixed.
I would say that I enjoyed the film, with it being a lot of fun at times, however, it is highly flawed.
I will start with the positives fist and the biggest praise I can give this move is that the acting is phenomenal, with all of the Losers club being perfectly cast.
It: Chapter 2 picks up 27 years after the first film with Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) calling the other members of the Losers’ Club, including Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), and Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), back to the town of Derry, Maine after the monstrous entity known as It resurfaces.
Bill Skarsgård does an amazing job playing the monstrous clown Pennywise, It’s favourite form, and this is most apparent in a scene where he lures a little girl in, showing how deviously manipulative It can be.
But it is with the Losers’ Club that the acting department really shines, with Bill Hader turning in the best performance as Richie.

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Bill Hader is by far the best actor in It: Chapter 2.

As well as being greatly performed, Richie also has a fantastic arc and provides a lot of the film’s laughs alongside Eddie.
There is even a cameo from Stephen King in the film, which is very well done.
Then there are the scares, a few of which got me but many did not.
This is okay, though, because, even though I was not as scared as when watching the first film, a lot of these scenes were very exciting.
It: Chapter 2 even managed to surprise me at times with one small storyline surrounding Bill trying to save one of It’s victims going in a direction I did not expect at all.
Sadly, this is where my praise for the film ends because it does have a lot of flaws that hold it back.
The biggest of these is easily the film’s runtime.
Coming in at 169 minutes, It: Chapter 2 is just too long.
The second act, especially, drags on for what feels like forever with so many formulaic scenes.
What is worse, it felt like these scenes should have been condensed in favor of other ones.
For example, Henry Bowers’ role is lessened to the point that I wondered why he was even in this movie.

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I feel like more time should have been devoted to Henry Bowers instead of other scenes in the film’s repetitive middle act.

Then there is the humor.
I know I praised the comedy earlier but there is just too much of it.
It is incredibly jarring to see the characters experience a horrific moment in one scene and then be making “your mum” jokes in the next.
This culminates in an especially bizarre moment when “Angel of the Morning” plays in what is supposed to be a scary scene.
Plus, there is a pretty problematic idea that is brought up about Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) at the end of the film that I feel should have been left on the cutting room floor.
I get what they were going for with that scene but it definitely can be read in a way that sends a very bad message.
Not that anything will come of that message, but it is problematic nonetheless.
Overall, though, these issues did not ruin the film for me.
I still enjoyed It: Chapter 2 quite a bit.
The acting is fantastic, especially from Bill Hader, a lot of the jokes are hilarious, and many of the scenes are exciting and take unexpected turns.
There are just quite a few issues you need to prepare yourself for going in, the biggest being the runtime.
Still, I would recommend the film, especially to fans of King’s original novel.

Dark Phoenix Review: Not a Complete Dumpster Fire but still a Fire.

two stars
I was not anticipating Dark Phoenix. 
With the lackluster trailers, which spoil the film, and the numerous stories about production problems and reshoots, it seemed that the second attempt to adapt the X-Men’s Phoenix Saga was not going to work.
Sadly, this did prove to be the case because Dark Phoenix, directed by Simon Kinberg, is definitely one of the weakest X-Men films.
However, I will say that the movie is not as terrible as I thought it was going to be.
There are some redeeming qualities about it.
For starters, all of the actors do a good job with what they are given, especially Sophie Turner as Jean Grey.
I believe she could have done a fantastic job if the story had been good.

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Sophie Turner does a good job as the corrupted Jean Grey, and could have been fantastic had the script made her more than a pawn. 

Then there is the action, which serves as some mindless entertainment.
Even though the final action sequence does have some atrocious CGI, it is still enjoyable to watch.
Dark Phoenix also starts out pretty promising.
For the first twenty minutes I was actually liking it.
Sure, it was not amazing or anything, but I felt like it would not be that bad.
And then the aliens showed up.
Lead by Jessica Chastain’s Vuk, these discount Skrulls should not have been in the movie.
Not only are they boring and uninteresting but the main threat of this story should have been Jean.
One of the big reasons many people find the Phoenix storyline so engaging is because the X-Men are forced to fight one of their own.
Yet, somehow, both this film, and The Last Stand, have Jean simply being a pawn for a bigger villain.

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The aliens should not have been in Dark Phoenix. People want to see the Phoenix Force being the main threat, not it being manipulated… again. 

I wish I could say these aliens are the only bad things about Dark Phoenix but they are not.
While I did like the opening twenty minutes, there is one thing I absolutely hated there that persisted for most of the film.
This being the absolute character assassination of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy).
He acts nothing like the Xavier from the previous films, coming across as a complete narcissist, even after one of his close friends dies.
I get this was a part of his character arc but it does not work at all, considering how unlikable he is during the first hour and a half.

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Did a Skrull take over Charles Xavier? Well, one might as well have because this is not the Xavier we saw in the other films. 

It is also obvious that there were reshoots done because sections the film feels different from the rest of it, creating a jumbled experience.
The cinematography is also just bland, with no interesting shots to speak of.
Dark Phoenix is a mess.
It has some redeeming qualities like the performances, a few decent action sequences, and the first twenty minutes.
Other than these features though, the film falls flat on its face.
There have been two attempts at adapting this story and both have failed.
Hopefully, the third time will be the charm if Marvel decides to reboot the X-Men franchise.
In any case Dark Phoenix is a forgettable film that ends the X-Men series on a less than memorable note.

Glass: A Bittersweet Conclusion.

4 stars
Glass 
is a film I was incredibly excited to see because of the way people have responded to it.
I have heard so many different opinions on this film.
Some love it, some hate it, some thought it was good but that the ending ruined it.
With so many varied responses, I was exited to see what my reaction to the film would be.
After viewing Glass, I clearly understand why there are so many  opinions on this film.
After a slew of terrible films, M. Night Shyamalan has been making a surprising comeback lately and many hoped Glass would see him return to his former status.
However, I find that unlikely considering how divisive this movie is.
Shyamalan made some bold choices in Glass but these choices lead to be an ultimately bittersweet conclusion to the trilogy he started, all the way back with 2000’s Unbreakable.
Picking up from the huge twist in Split, that the film takes place in Unbreakable‘s universe, Glass sees David Dunn (Bruce Willis), nicknamed “The Overseer”, hunting down Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), nicknamed “The Hoard.”
After being captured, the two are transported to a mental institution where they are treated by Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who believes their superpowers are a part of their own delusion.
However, the criminal mastermind Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) is also in this institution and slowly begins to implement his plan to escape and prove their existence to the world.
For starters, the acting of the three main actors of McAvoy, Willis and Jackson are great.
McAvoy again steals the show with his terrific performance of all Kevin’s personalities.

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James McAvoy is amazing as Kevin Wendell Crumb and his various personalities like Hedwig, Patricia, Dennis, and, of course, the Beast himself.

Then there is Willis whose subtle performance as David Dunn in Unbreakable carries on into this film.
Finally, there is Jackson as the titular Mr Glass who is surprisingly not in much of the film, making me wonder why it is named after him, until the final act where he really shines.
The other returning actors all do a great job as well.
Then there is the cinematography, which is also very well done, creating some great shot including a fantastic use of P.O.V shots.
As for the soundtrack, composed by West Dylan Thordson, it is nothing short of phenomenal.
Not everything is though, sadly, since Shyamalan’s notoriously sketchy dialogue does appear in some places, although not enough to derail the film.
However, whether the story of Glass does get derailed depends on the viewer’s perspective on the ending, which is quite divisive.
The ending is incredibly bittersweet, offering an ending that will either satisfy some audiences or leave them disappointed and maybe even angry, again, depending on the viewer.
Personally, I think the ending fits in well with the story Shyamalan was trying to tell but it could have been executed better.
I found the way one one of the characters’ story ends to be bitterly disappointing, due to the way it is executed and I think there should have been reshoots to fix it.
Still, this problem I had did not kill the ending for me, although it certainly will for many others.
Overall, I would say this is the most divisive movie ending I have seen in a long time, with both sides having valid arguments to this being a good and bad ending.

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The way Glass ends will put some people off, while for others it will be a fitting end for the story.

It is subversive, bold and a massive risk on the part of Shyamalan.
Whether this risk pays off is up for each person who watches Glass to decide.
I think it does pay-off but I can certainly understand the other side of the argument.
I would encourage you to watch Glass just to see what your take on it will be.